In case you missed it (which … might be a bad thing or a good thing, we're not sure), Lifetime premiered their TV movie adaptation of everyone's favorite incestuous love story: V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic. If you missed this televised train wreck, or simply want to relive all the sordid details (you masochist, you), please enjoy the following recap.
The camera tracks through an abandoned mansion, Foxworth Hall. We see a crowded attic with hash-marks on the wall and a scrawled, “Cathy was here.” A voiceover tells us yellow is the color of hope but “we never colored even one of our paper flowers yellow.” Translation? This is a V.C. Andrews story. Shit’s about to get freaky.
Pre-freakdom, the golden Dollenganger family are a tableau of 1950s happiness: Cathy, her brother Chris, the twins Carrie and Cory, and their blissful parents. (Buff Chris is way too old to be stuck in an attic in 15 minutes. Please take away his Wheaties.) Then, Daddy D dies in a car accident, and the perfect picture shatters. But, good news, mom Corrine (Heather Graham; no, not the paranormal romance author!) says they can move to Virginia and live with her superrich parents. “Our name isn’t really Dollenganger. It’s Foxworth,” she says. The naïve kidlets don’t question this, setting the stage for all the WTFery to come. They arrive at Foxworth Hall under the cover of night and meet Corrine’s mother (Ellen Burstyn). Grammy Dearest leads them to a secluded upstairs room and, as the twins get ready for bed together, flips out about Cathy and Chris sharing the other bed. (Who can blame her? Chris is clearly 30.) “God sees everything,” she warns. Alone, Corrine tells Chris and Cathy she got kicked out of the house at 18 and needs time to reconnect with her dad and get back in his will.
The next day, Grammy Dearest drops off a basket of food and outlines the house rules: no nudity, no noise and playing and hiding in the attic only as needed. Do the kids think this is strange? Nah. (They’re not very bright). As Chris builds a swing in the attic for the twins, Cathy wonders why their grandma said they’d be punished for even being alive. “This week’s going to fly by,” insists muscled mental giant Chris. By the end of the night, the twins are restless and crabby — and Grandma’s not havin’ it. She demands Corrine take off her blouse and show her kids the lashes across her back. Eighteen for “tempting” her father, 20 for a marriage that was an “abomination.” Have the golden children figured out they’re not in Kansas anymore? Yeah. (Also, the actress playing Cathy, aka Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka, looks a bit like Emma Watson, so please slot in Hermione Granger for all your appropriately horrified moments to come.)
The next day, Corrine brings a tray of paints up to the attic as a peace offering and explains to Chris and Cathy how she fell for her “half-uncle” and eloped with him. “Love doesn’t always come when you want. Sometimes it just happens. Against your will.” (This is foreshadowing. Really icky foreshadowing.) Chris forgives his mom instantly. Cathy is still suspicious. Sure enough, a week goes by without a visit from Corrine, as the kids paint paper flowers and Cathy keeps a tally on the wall. Grammy Dearest actually has a bonding moment with Cathy … until she starts slut-shaming. At the end of the month, GD shoos the kids up to the attic so maids can clean and seems almost apologetic as she gives Cathy some real flowers for their fake garden. (They’re yellow, of course.)
Corrine, aiming for Mother of the Year, brings the kids some toys and games and then lets slip that she’s been sailing and has a movie date. As per usual, Chris sees no problem but Cathy thinks this is hella shady. Corrine admits she can’t tell her father about her children, because her return to the fold is contingent upon her being devil-spawn free. Later, the twins play hide-and-seek and Cory gets locked in a trunk. Cathy takes care of her sick baby bro as Chris shatters all the locks on all the trunks. It’s clear they’re an episode of Teen Mom now … just with extra creepitude. Soon, Christmas rolls around, and the kids present Grammy Dearest with a hand-made present. She seems moved, but shuts the door on them. The next morning, Corrine brings gifts, including a TV. She tells the kids she’s poised to inherit everything and there’s a big party for her tonight. She lets Cathy and Chris hide in a liquor cabinet to watch the shindig. When Cathy spots lawyer Bart Winslow (Orphan Black hottie Dylan Bruce), she’s intrigued. But she and Chris are stunned to realize Bart and Corrine are hooking up. Chris’ Oedipal jealousy kicks into overdrive as he goes exploring and finds Corrine’s lavish suite. Corrine goes ballistic, slapping him and telling Cathy they’re never allowed out again. (Yeah, she’s three colors short of a proper box of Froot Loops.)
With 50 minutes left to go, viewers haven’t used up all their “Oh, Hell, no!” cards. So, Cuckoo Corrine manipulates her hapless kids some more. Before long, Cathy’s attic hash-marks add up to a year and she catches Chris ogling ladies in a magazine. (Where’d he get it? No clue.) Corrine has to give Cathy The Talk, and says that Chris will “have to start shaving.” (Please. He’s 40. He’s BEEN shaving.) Cue Chris walking in as Cathy tries on her first bra. Naturally, Grammy Dearest catches the Moment of Skeeve. She demands Chris cut Cathy’s temptress hair or the kids starve for a week. They pick starving (because they are stupid). But Grandma actually caves and brings them food! Aw. Too bad it’s a BASKET OF LIES, because Cathy wakes up that night with tar in her hair. Chris tries to help her wash it but then has to cut her hair after all. And, folks, this is when you want to start reaching for the brain bleach. Because he strokes her shoulders and wishes Cathy weren’t “so close.” This is the skeeviest haircut of ALL TIME.
As her hair grows back, Cathy starts teaching herself ballet and flirting with her brother. As you do. (I am recapping from fetal position here. Please send help.) They take time out of being icky to realize the twins have stopped growing. Cathy is determined to try escaping the attic, so they rappel down the wall and end up frolicking in the lake. As you do. They bond, feed a random deer and then go back upstairs. Cory adopts a pet rat and Corrine shows up to tell the children that she married Bart and honeymooned in Europe. OediChris finally loses his shit and goes off on his psycho mom for locking them away for two years. Atta boy! (Too bad he couldn’t do this before he started wanting to date his sister.) Cathy realizes Corrine hasn’t told Bart she has kids.
The next day, Grandma brings up doughnuts, but advises the children not to eat them. (Spoiler alert: THESE ARE DEATH DOUGHNUTS.) Cathy again suggests escaping, but Chris points out they have nowhere to go. To hammer in the point, their deer pal gets shot as they watch from the window. Then, Chris gets sassy with his grandmother and she whips him. Judgey McGrandmason didn’t think this through, because Cathy has to tend his shirtless wounds. And he kisses her. As you do. (NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOO!) Apparently Chris leeches some intelligence from Cathy’s lips, because he sucks up to Grandma and figures out how to copy her master key. The teens decide to steal money from their flaky mom. Later, Christopher goes outside to check out a fence being built and Cathy winds up in Corrine’s room, where Bart is passed out. And she quickly kisses him. As you do. (Considering her other love interest is her brother, your recapper is fine with this.) Too bad both Corrine and Chris put two and two together. Cathy soothes Chris’ ruffled feathers. With her mouth. And they wind up in bed. (AAAAAGH.) (NOOOOOO.) (HALP.) Chris, a bastion of mental health, says he can never love anyone besides Cathy.
Their afterglow (::shudder::) is interrupted by Cory’s death rattles. Cuckoo Corrine is unmoved by her wee son’s condition. Cathy slaps her and goes off, and when Grammy Dearest suggests they take the boy to the hospital, Corrine carries him out. She comes back later to tell Cathy, Chris and Carrie that Cory died. The kids are devastated; Corrine not so much. Cathy and Chris resolve to escape ASAP and skulk around the house for more funds. Upon one such excursion, Chris overhears the butler tell a maid that their grandfather’s been dead for seven months and Corrine’s all about rat poison. (Toldja: death doughnuts!) Chris rushes back upstairs, where Cory’s pet rat has died after nibbling on poisoned pastry. As the light dawns, Grammy Dearest comes up for one final confrontation … and, despite being all pale and sick, they overpower her and lock her in the dark stairwell between the room and the attic. She instantly goes from Nurse Ratched to helpless old lady, warbling that their mother tried to kill them. Cathy’s all, “Whatever! God sees everything, bitch!” and they rappel out the attic window. When a guard stops them, he’s stunned to realize they’re Corrine’s kids and lets them keep running. Cathy, Chris and Carrie make it on to a train … free to live happily and incestuously ever after.
As for viewers … ? We’re free to scrub our brains and avoid doughnuts forever. Sorry, Dunkin’. It’s been real. I’ll miss you.